Category Archives: Firefox

Firefox eQuake Alert

As I write this the media have moved on from the 8.9 magnitude earthquake that hit Japan earlier today and are now concentrating on the tsunami that is moving across the Pacific. But those in the area originally affected by what is being called a “superquake” now have to endure aftershocks. I discovered a long time ago from friends living in earthquake zones in New Zealand, China and Turkey that the initial quake is often only the beginning of their troubles. Aftershocks can have a devastating effect on weakened buildings, infrastructure and on morale. Those of us living far from the area and who have never experienced such a disaster cannot begin to comprehend what it must be like, despite the horrific images appearing on our TV and computer screens. If you use Firefox you can at least begin to appreciate the frequency of aftershocks and their strength.

eQuake Alert ( or uses USGS (US Geological Survey) data and adds an alert to the status bar of Firefox showing you the magnitude and location of the latest event.

eQuake Alert in Firefox Statius Bar

Right click on the alert and you can choose to view a list of recent quakes that also gives you date and time.

eQuake Alert list

There is an additional option to “Shake browser on earthquake”. This makes your browser screen wobble when news of a quake comes through and you can set it to shake proportional to earthquake magnitude. So set your options to check the data every 1 minute and to shake your browser as part of the alert every time there is a USGS report. You may also want to set the alerts only for quakes above magnitude 5. Yes,  it  is extremely irritating but leave it on for 15 minutes. At least you will have an idea of  what is happening and perhaps begin to understand what it must be like for those trying to survive in the quake zone.

Update: Two people have got back to me reporting that when they try to install eQuake Alert  they are told that it has not been updated for their latest version of Firefox. I forgot that I have the Nightly Tester Tools add-on installed, which lets me “Force Addon Compatibility”. If you want to give eQuake Alert a try the Nightly Tester Tools is at I have not so far experienced any problems by forcing eQuake Alert compatibility with the latest version of Firefox.

Earthquake Alerts

If you are looking for up to the minute news on earthquakes it would seem that Twitter beats the mainstream news media even when major shocks have occurred. Phil Bradley has carried out a comparison of the timeliness and quality of information about the Baja 7.2 earthquake provided by Sky News, CNN, ABC, Google News, BBC and Twitter (Phil Bradley’s weblog: Earthquake: Twitter trounces traditional news sources again! Not surprisingly Twitter came out on top in terms of speed of reporting but what is amazing is that some people actually tweet while the earthquake is happening. Fine if you are in open countryside but if I was in a built up area I’d be more worried about falling buildings: but then if you are strolling through fields and mountains there is always the possibility that the ground will open up and swallow you. Now that would be worth tweeting about!

If you want up to the minute scientific data on earthquakes, the USGS (US Geological Survey) has a page with a map showing recent tremors and links to RSS feeds giving you date, time, location and magnitude (Earthquakes They also provide the data as CSV files, an iGoogle gadget and KML feeds for Google Earth.

Google Earth and USGS KML feeds

Google Earth and USGS KML feeds

I have friends and colleagues who live in earthquake zones in New Zealand, China and Turkey. The first major shock is always reported by the press – eventually – as are some of the major aftershocks, but the best way for me to find out what is happening to them is a combination of Twitter and the USGS data. Follow the latter and you will quickly discover that earthquakes are happening somewhere on this planet all of time, most of them of low magnitude. You will also notice that after a major earthquake there are not dozens but hundreds of aftershocks, as I learned from my New Zealand friends. The traditional press have moved on to more interesting stories but the people in the affected region are having to deal with the consequences of not only the first major quake but also the continual aftershocks.

The RSS feeds are good way of keeping up with quake events but I only dip into my feed reader 3 or 4 times a day. Most of my online life is spent in my browser Firefox. Enter the eQuake Alert add-on for Firefox.( This uses USGS data and adds an alert to the status bar of Firefox showing you the magnitude and location of the latest event. Right click on the alert and you can choose to view a list of recent of quakes that also gives you date and time.

eQuake Alert

As an additional alert there is an option to “Shake browser on earthquake”. This makes your browser screen wobble when news of a quake comes through and you can set it to shake proportional to earthquake magnitude. No chance of missing it now! You can also set a minimum magnitude for alerts, which is useful if you the perpetual wobbling of the screen becomes too intrusive. Mine was originally set to 3 but for hours after the Baja earthquake aftershocks seemed to be occurring every other minute so I increased it to 4

When combined, the different services provide me with a clearer picture of what is going on and help me find out if friends and colleagues have been seriously affected. The Firefox eQuake add-on alerts me to events within a few minutes of their occurrence. The USGS RSS feeds show me what has been happening over the past 24 hours. Twitter provides immediate reports from people in the earthquake zone. Eventually the traditional news media will report and my Google News alerts will kick in. And finally, the USGS KML feeds for Google Earth provide an incredible visualisation of the extent and impact of a series of quakes in a region.

Firefox Addon – Resurrect Pages

This is the prefect Firefox add-on for the dreaded 404 message, or if you want to see which version of a page the search engines have in their cache. You can try five page cache/mirrors in turn: CoralCDN, Google Cache, Yahoo! Cache, The Internet Archive and the MSN/Live Cache. The search engine caches usually only have copies going back days or, at most, weeks but the Internet Archive may have copies going back to 1996. If you have installed Firefox 2 you may need to use the Nightly Tester Tool add-on to persuade Firefox that Resurrect Pages is compatible.

Mozdev Googlebar for Firefox updated

Googlebar has been updated to make it compatible with Firefox 1.5. It was possible to fool Firefox into allowing the earlier Googlebar extension to be installed by using the Nightly Tester Tools but one could not guarantee that all the buttons would work. Note that this is not the Toolbar provided by Google but a completely separate project. I much prefer the Mozdev Googlebar as it offers far more search options from the toolbar including video, book, Scholar, Maps, Local and Glossary search.

Firefox 1.5 released

The latest version of Firefox, 1.5, has been released. New and improved features include:

* “drag and drop” feature for tabbed browsing so that you can re-arrange the tabs
* Improved pop-up blocker
*Addition of now included in the integrated Search box.
* Improved Live Bookmarks feature for RSS feeds.
* New Automatic Update system
* New Clear Private Data tool so that you can clear all private information, such as history and form entries, via one settings window.

I have also noticed that it displays pages significantly faster.

You may find that some of your extensions may be disabled because Firefox thinks that they are not compatible with this latest version. I initially had a problem with Flashblock, Googlebar, TinyUrl creator and Pagerank. Checking for updates will sort out most of the “incomptibilities”. For the rest, try the Nightly Tester Tools extension. Primarily intended to check for new nightly builds of Firefox, it also has an option that tells Firefox your existing plug-ins can work with the latest download. There is a chance that an extension could cause problems but it worked OK with my collection.

Google Toolbar for Firefox

Google Toolbar for Firefox

Google has at last launched a version of its toolbar for Firefox. It seems to have all the features of the IE version but appears to be missing several of the “special” searches that are incorporated into the separately developed Googlebar, such as Scholar, Print, Video, Dictionary and Glossary Search. Googlebar is also experimenting with adding Google Labs “Google Suggests” into the toolbar, although the version I tried froze on occasion.

I shall stay with Googlebar for the time being.

If you are fed up with having to register to use free sites try this service. Type in the URL of the site and BugMeNot “lends” you a user name and password. The site claims to have log in details for half a million sites. For Firefox users there is an extension at BugMeNot. When a site asks for a password, right click and select BugMeNot from the menu. The user name and password fields are automatically filled in.